Current struggles with my niche and product

I’ve been thinking long and hard and I have been struggling over a lot of different aspects around my niche and product, and I have been having strong doubts about every decision I make. It’s been really hard.

Thoughts about my potential product

As the 4 readers of this blog already know, I create digital illustrations and surface pattern designs. Whatever product and niche I land on – I know that at least part of my Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is my illustration style is very much unlike other design styles currently out there. I’ve had a lot of good response to my animal patterns and illustrations specifically, so I was thinking about focusing on mostly animal-based design.

Until I started taking the course on how to market and sell your art-based products, I’d been creating my illustrations and putting them up on various print on demand (POD) sites, mostly Redbubble, and it was mostly for fun. However, now that I’m getting serious about all of this and want to turn this into a real revenue stream, I don’t want to use POD for my product for many reasons:

  • Very little control over pricing (this is the biggest con for me)
  • No control over sales or discounts (at the mercy of the POD site)
  • Long creation and shipping times
  • No control over product quality
  • Any marketing I do will be, at least partially, for the POD and their products, not my own

Of course, the pros of POD are there, too; someone else is handling customer service, they provide a trusted platform, I get to offer a variety of products I’d never ever be able to produce on my own.)

Since I don’t have the capacity, or knowledge, to be hand creating products at home, this means that my product is digital, which means digital download items, such as digital prints, digital paper, digital stamps, digital clipart, digital greeting cards, digital stationery, etc, etc.

From my market research, here’s what I’ve determined are the people who consume digitals.

People who buy digital goods

  • Professional creators making physical products for sale, usually paper products such as cards (I notice most digital creators sell separate commercial licenses for this market and from my research: they sell quite well)
  • Amateur makers who are printing and creating at home, such as scrapbooking, decoupage, copper and silver etching, etc.
  • Jewelry makers
  • Home decorators
  • Cricut and/or Silhouette users
  • Bullet journalers and other journalers
  • People who want to upload to products and/or fabric at print on demand sites

Providing digital products is very attractive for many reasons: no upfront costs, no packaging and shipping from your home, your prices can be quite low which allows for more impulse buying opportunities, and I already provide technical support for a living already in my day job so I’m very comfortable providing that for my potential customers.

Thoughts about my niche

Here’s where I landed with my niche. I have two LGBT+ children. My daughter is in her early 20s and we sat down and had a long talk about this – she loved the idea of me producing LGBT+ designs with animals. This does exactly what my course says to do: intersect two separate markets: animal lovers and LGBT+. I love this idea for many reasons. For one, it’s polarizing (probably in more ways than one!) which the course also says is important. Also, there are a lot of LGBT+ people out there who have been rejected by their families, and I love the message: here is a mom who is accepting and loving and supporting and celebrating her LGBT+ children (like Sara Cunningham who is a stand-in mom at same-sex weddings).

I would also like to donate a set percentage of my profits to The Trevor Project to further my support for the LGBT+ youth and community out there.

This niche feels nice and narrow and creating the illustrations and patterns would be a joy (so many rainbows!). I’m happy here.

My struggles (is there anybody that made it this far?)

I finally got here. The course instructs to start by defining your niche/customer and then develop the product – not the other way around. You don’t want to start with your product and then go looking to see who your customers is. When I do the market research to identify what my potential customer is and what they are buying, NONE of it is digital. They are definitely purchasing cute physical goods, but completely digital goods already feels like a fairly narrow niche in itself!

In fact, if you think about it, I would be intersecting THREE market niches: animal lovers, LGBT+, AND digital-only consumers.

This is very, very uncomfortable for me, and my gut says it is a bad idea. From the research from I’ve done, LGBTQA+ animal designs ON DIGITAL ONLY PRODUCTS does not have market that I could find. When I think about marketing for this, it actually feels more difficult.

My gut says I should be providing physical products for this niche. But it opens up a whole new can of worms for me. Suddenly I’m going from what I am good at, and have time for: digital design, to an area of the complete unknown. And the upfront costs of producing physical goods is daunting. And having to deal with packaging, shipping, ordering stock, etc etc – is so out of my wheelhouse that it very nearly paralyzes me.

But here’s the thing, putting my products on physical products is really attractive to me. So there’s that.

So here are my questions

  1. Are digital download products a narrow enough niche of it’s own?
  2. Or perhaps digital download products with a focus on animal-based designs – would that be a narrow enough niche?
  3. Am I right to be skeptical of the intersection of LGBT+ and digital only products?
  4. Would any of you advise taking the leap into having my products manufactured?

(Apparently my market for this post is people who like to read overly long diatribes.)

And of course, just writing this all down in a readable way has already helped to clarify my thoughts and I’m leaning in a particular direction, but I’d still love to get thoughts from the community!

Thanks for reading! Thank you even more for commenting!

Design 75

I took the pussywillow design from yesterday and turned it into a repeat pattern. One part of the process to make it into a repeat pattern is to pull it into Illustrator and do an image trace. I’m usually quite satisfied with this process, however this time due to the painterly quality of the original, I felt like it lost a bit too much of the qualities that I liked. It went from a painterly feel to a definite vector image feel. I have to think how I can try to do this same thing in photoshop where I can retain the original quality. I might try this again tomorrow to see if I can figure it out.

It’s still quite pretty though, here it is on Redbubble!

Designs 70, 71

Life is nearly back to normal after the holidays, and I’m jumping right back in with both feet! I thought I might play catch up over the next few days to get me back on track!

Today I repurposed my bees and cone flowers from the previous design, creating two new patterns. One is a structured bee pattern, which I’m not so crazy about. I think I may try this again tomorrow but with a single bee rather than both, because the overall effect is a little strange.

The second one I’m pretty excited about solely because I’ve learned how to do half drop repeat patterns! It was much easier than I imagined, and it’s something I’ve been wanting to learn how to do for a while now. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s a new technique I will work hard to perfect.

Design 70 – See it on Redbubble
Design 71 – See it on Redbubble

More tomorrow!

2018 Year in Review

What a year it’s been! With all the shenanigans happening in the political world it was nice to just spend my time and energy on creating fun illustrations and patterns.

Some achievements

  • I learned surface pattern design techniques – including how to create a seamless repeating pattern.
  • Two of my designs were handpicked among thousands to be included in WeaveUp’s partnership with Joann’s Fabrics.
  • Two of my designs were featured on the RedBubble homepage
  • I made more sales than ever before!

Sales

I sold print on demand products in 12 different countries and 29 different states in the USA! Most of my sales were Redbubble products, although I did sell a few Amazon Merch tees, TeePublic tees, and a handful of Society6 products.

Here are some of the products that sold:

Looking ahead to 2019

I have a lot of plans and goals for next year. My top goals are:

  • Continue my 365 Days of Design – I’m allowing myself to continue this challenge in non-consecutive days due to a business trip followed by a terrible cold that I’m still recovering from.
  • Launch a Digital Downloads Etsy shop where I sell various items available for digital download, including digital papers, planners, clipart, and more.
  • Create and publish more tutorials.
  • Create a pattern portfolio, develop a collection.
  • Work toward licensing a pattern collection.

… and more!

All in all it’s been a really exciting year for me. One thing I’ve learned is when I put the hard work in, things really do happen. I’m pumped to keep the momentum going.

— Davida

Design 59 / 365 Days of Design

I continue to indulge my love of rainbows, geometric design, and hearts. And polka dots. Put it all together and what do you get? This:

See it on Redbubble!

In other good news, I have yet another artwork featured on Redbubble’s home page! Design 42 – My raccoon pattern. My birds have been selling quite well, even as they’ve moved down the page and below the proverbial fold, so it’s exciting to have another one featured. Yay!

Design 58 / 365 Days of Design

Wanted to do something a little playful today, and a bit more layered than I’m used to doing. I actually really love how this came out. I did the same color scheme that I’ve been doing, but in a asymmetric diamond pattern on top of a polka dot pattern. It’s fun and looks great on the various Redbubble products. “Design 58 / 365 Days of Design” Womens T-Shirt by divafern | Redbubble

I also created a standalone pattern that you see framed below: